How To Recognize Sexual Harassers

Heads up ladies! This one’s for you. If you are a female sex therapist, you are likely to get inappropriate calls from male “clients.” In this post, I will help you recognize when this is happening and offer suggestions for how to handle it.

Sadly, sometimes males call not to ask about our services, but rather as a way to sexually stimulate themselves. As therapists, it may be difficult to recognize these callers because we are trained to “meet clients where they are” and be helpful. However, with these types of callers, you cannot act as you normally would. You must firmly establish boundaries, which may include hanging up the phone.

For the sake of clarity in my writing, I am going to use the term “sexual harasser” to refer to any male pretending to be a client in order to engage in sexually inappropriate verbal contact, and/or who is calling to get sexual gratification.

First, I will discuss how to recognize you have a sexual harasser on the phone. The sooner you recognize what is happening, the more time you have to prepare yourself and react appropriately.

Signs You Have a Sexual Harasser

  1. Odd breathing patterns (holding their breath, heavy breathing, etc.), long periods of silence, or if they seem distracted. Unless they are working out or in traffic, not only do you have a sexual harasser, you have a masturbator, too.
  2. Overly abrupt on initial contact. I have found the sexual harassers tend to be very gruff, with a quick and forceful tone bordering on disrespectful. They are also very vague about their problem and will ask very general questions.
  3. Asking for feedback on what’s “normal.” Here’s where it gets tricky: they may actually be in need of sexual psychoeducation, but most males won’t admit that on the phone. So if they want to know whether something is “normal,” it’s a red flag for me.
  4. A single guy with an excessive masturbation problem, or any other performance issue related to masturbation. Another red flag. Usually males seeking sexual counseling are in a relationship, because most males are not going to think excessive masturbation is a problem unless its affecting their partner. However, if their comments are framed in terms of an addiction, i.e. “I’m spending hours at night masturbating to porn and it’s taking away from seeing my kids and I can’t stop”- then it’s a real problem.

  5. A general “yuck” feeling. This one is hard to describe, and I’m sure it arises (sorry!) from subtle things like cadence and tone of voice, but if I feel “yuck” I trust my gut.

  6. Resistance when I ask them to review my website, which includes a services description regarding sex therapy. Unless they are not tech-savvy or lack access to a computer, this is a definite red flag.

  7. Going into unnecessary and graphic detail, particularly if it seems like it’s been rehearsed.
  8. Not respecting boundaries, including continuing a graphic sexual discussion when told such content should be saved for discussion in the therapy room.

This is not a comprehensive list; it is just what I have encountered personally as a sex therapist. And these signs must be considered as part of an overall picture of the client, i.e. one sign by itself doesn’t necessarily mean you have a sexual harasser.

What To Do

If you have a sexual harasser, respectfully tell them that this is an inappropriate phone call and you believe they are not really asking for services, and you are going to hang up. Then hang up.

If you’re not sure you have a sexual harasser, explain that this is an area you do not specialize in, and suggest they call another therapist. Preferably a male.

Please remember that as therapists we have the right to establish boundaries to ensure that we are treated respectfully and professionally.

For more information on preventing this sort of behavior, please visit this post.

Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,

Dr. Barb LoFrisco

About

Dr. Barbara LoFrisco is a licensed mental health counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist in private practice in Tampa, FL. Her doctorate is in Counselor Education and Supervision from the University of South Florida, where she also is an Visiting Instructor. She is passionate about educating and nurturing counseling students and new counselors. At Masters In Counseling.org, Barbara writes about counseling education as well as career and study advice. The blog aims to serve both counseling students and early career counselors.